WIMBLEDON: For First Time Ever, Serena’s Body and Mind Break down at Same Time

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Serena Williams loss to Sabine Lisicki wasn’t an upset at Wimbledon. It was THE upset.

REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

WIMBLEDON, England

This is the impossible. It doesn’t happen because it can’t happen. Now, it did happen. Serena Williams lost in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Monday, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 to Sabine Lisicki.

It’s not just that Serena lost, which seems nearly impossible enough. The bigger issue is this:

For maybe the first time ever, Williams buckled, both mentally and physically. Both, at the same time.

“I wasn’t willing or able,’’ she said, “or probably didn’t even want to hold my serve today.’’

Didn’t want to?

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WIMBLEDON: Strange Cats-and-Dogs Cultural Truth About Women and Men on Tour

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REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

It was 7-6 in the tiebreaker Sunday at Wimbledon, and Novak Djokovic was about to lose. “Moment of Truth,’’ he yelled, trying to pressure and intimidate the, well, the kid on the other side of the net.

It was the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, the day off. The Bryan brothers got off their practice court at the same time Juan Martin del Potro got off his, and they took pictures together. The Bryan Bros. posted one on their Twitter account.

Djokovic had somehow run into a highly ranked junior boy, and they practiced together for a few minutes, then played a tiebreaker. Djokovic was screaming at him, trash-talking him. Still, the kid won, and Djokovic dropped and gave five pushups.

This all comes together as just another example of a strange cultural truth in tennis that has become more and more evident the past two weeks: For some reason, the women on tour don’t seem to get along with each other, and the men do.

This Wimbledon started with a storyline about the bickering between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Their dislike of each other was never exactly a secret, but it had never been this open before. Serena took shots, presumably at Sharapova, in an article in Rolling Stone magazine, and Sharapova shot back that if Serena wants to talk about personal things, she should stick to the fact that she’s a homewrecker.

It just seemed like a fun-to-watch personal thing. But more and more, things anecdotally keep popping up to show that it’s bigger than that.

“I think so,’’ John Isner told me early last week with a laugh that seemed to say, `That’s the understatement of the year.’ The women, you don’t even see them practice together. It’s weird.’’

By contrast, Isner said that on Monday, he and Roger Federer happened to be in the locker room at the same time.

“We were in the showers, and started talking WWE (professional wrestling),’’ Isner said. “I kid you not.’’

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WIMBLEDON: One Rivalry Can Spark Women’s Tennis in the U.S.

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Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams

REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON 

I’m starting to dream of a Serena-Sloane Wimbledon final. Can you imagine? The new rivalry of tennis?

After they both went along with, and then later debunked, the whole feelgood story about their mentor-student relationship?

After Sloane Stephens beat Serena Williams at the Australian Open? After Serena took a shot at Sloane, theoretically, on Twitter? After Sloane called Serena a phony? This could be great. It could revive women’s tennis and spark it in the US.

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WIMBLEDON: A Year Like no Other. Wimby Defined by @DreddyTennis

 

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REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

He played way out on Court 14 Friday, with the Centre Court stadium still in view, hovering. With only three rows of stands, people were packed around the brick walls just six paces off the side of the court. People were on their toes, or kid on dad’s shoulders. Some people stood and strained from the seats from the next court over, others climbed the walls until security told them to move. Then more climbed anyway.

Dustin Brown became a cult figure at Wimbledon this week. Tall, black, Jamaican/German with sleeveless shirt, stretched skinny muscles, long dreads down his back and a jacket promoting his Twitter handle on the back: @DreddyTennis.

“I mean, why not?’’ he said. “If no one else is putting the patch on you, why not market your own product?’’

He gained 15,000 Twitter followers this week. Usually, in the minors, he said, he gains three. Not 3,000.

Three.

Maybe for the first time, this was the week of the little guy, the no-name, the underdog at Wimbledon. Well, that’s not exactly right. It was their week on the Wimbledon grounds, the outer courts. That’s where they were heroes, with the people who had the cheaper, outer-court tickets.

This isn’t just a tribute to some journeymen having the week of their lives. It’s more of a cultural thing for this place and this tournament. Be honest: With Wimbledon’s history, you would not expect a black Jamaican with long dreads to actually become the cult figure.

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WIMBLEDON: U.S. Tennis Just Can’t Man Up

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Bobby Reynolds was the last American man standing at Wimbledon

REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

So now it’s down to this: Not only aren’t there any U.S. men capable of winning a tennis major, but there aren’t any ready to compete. And there isn’t even a representative to ask about it.

So it falls on some guy named Bobby Reynolds. He was the last American man standing at Wimbledon but lost Thursday to Novak Djokovic. It’s the first time an American man hasn’t reached the third round of Wimbledon since ’12.

That’s 1912, when the Chicago Cubs World Series winless streak was up to … three years. One thing: No American men even entered that year.

“I knew a couple Americans played today,” Reynolds said after his match. “I don’t feel like I’m carrying the U.S. flag, the lone guy left. I just happened to play the last match.”

True enough. So it was bad luck that he had to be the one to turn out the lights. Well, these one-time fluke things happen sometimes. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those

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WIMBLEDON: Searching for Challenges for Serena. Andy Murray in Vegas Showdown?

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Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs

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Serena Williams and Andy Murray

REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

We have now come up with two opponents who can beat Serena Williams: Andy Murray and 21-year-old Serena Williams. That’s where the discussion went Thursday after Williams clobbered Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 in the second round at Wimbledon.

Responding to a tweet from a reader, Murray wrote in a column in a London newspaper that he would love to challenge Serena and suggested Las Vegas as a possible site. And apparently Martina Navratilova said on The Tennis Channel that Williams is so amazing at 31 that she would beat Williams at 21.

No, she wouldn’t. And Murray would win easily, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s just filler conversation. This is crickets-chirping time in the women’s draw, as everyone is just waiting for Williams to finish off her last five matches. By everyone, I mean the other players.

At this point, Williams’ opponents are Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. She is competing against history for label of best ever.

But what about Serena vs. Murray?

“That would be fine,” she said. “I get (to hit in doubles) alleys. He gets no serves. I get alleys on my serves, too. He gets no legs, yeah . . . I doubt I’d win a point.’”

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WIMBLEDON: Federer out. Jeopardizing legacy with stubborn refusal to modernize

Roger Federer exits Wimbledon

Roger Federer exits Wimbledon

REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

At this point, Roger Federer is just too stubborn. I get it. I understand. You do something a certain way, and every day for nearly a decade, that way recites back to you: You’re the best ever. You’re the best ever.

But the Federer era ended Wednesday. After reaching the quarterfinals or better in 36 consecutive majors spanning nine years, he lost in the second round at Wimbledon on Wednesday to Sergiy Stakhovsky, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.

Stakhovsky is not ranked in the top 100. He was 0-20 in his career against top-10 players, and now, as he said, “Someday I’ll be able to tell my grandkids that I kicked Roger Federer’s butt.”

I’m not sure that’s really Roger Federer anymore. Looks like him, but it’s not.

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WIMBLEDON: Oh No, Sharapova Loses. Wimbledon Catfight `13 Already Over

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REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

With a whole lot of yelling and screaming, poof, there went the fun we were expecting for two weeks at Wimbledon. Sharapova lost 6-3, 6-4 in the second round Wednesday to Michelle Larcher de Brito. They are two of the loudest grunters on tour.

No more snickering comments back and forth with Serena Williams. It was supposed to be two full weeks of uncivil behavior, just what tennis needs. Serena kicked it off with her shots in Rolling Stone magazine.

Wimbledon Catfight 2013 is over and done. Serena wins that, too, just by surviving the first Wednesday of the tournament.

Did it all get to Sharapova?

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WIMBLEDON: Serena Williams, James Blake Pay Tribute to Critically Ill Nelson Mandela

REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

Briefly choking up Tuesday, Serena Williams remembered meeting Nelson Mandela as “probably one of the best moments of my life.’’

And Williams, who has served to break down walls as an African American in a traditionally white sport, spoke about Mandela’s “forgiving heart.’’

“I think his whole example is an extremely important part of our lives,’’ she said. “For someone to have been incarcerated for so long . . . to have such an open heart, open spirit, open soul is unheard of.

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WIMBLEDON: Finally, Reason for Hope for Future of U.S. Tennis (Women Only)

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REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

By now, two days into a tennis major, the US media usually have rushed in to talk about all the new hope in American tennis. Why the rush? Because the future is now! No, really it’s because in two more days, everyone but Serena Williams usually would be out.

So it’s now or never. And I’m usually ridiculing the rush. But this time, for the first time in years, the hope looks realistic. On the women’s side, that is. With men? Not so much.

On Tuesday, 18-year old American Madison Keys beat young Brit hope Heather Watson, 6-3, 7-5, in the first round. It was Keys’ first match ever at Wimbledon, even though she already is ranked No. 52. And that match probably didn’t draw much attention.

But while everyone is watching Williams and Maria Sharapova (and maybe Victoria Azarenka), a new and very real battle is taking place in the next tier down.

It’s an incredible opportunity for all young players from any country, really. But the news is that the Americans suddenly are in position to consider the opportunity theirs, too.

The women’s tour has a massive quality gap after the top three players.

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